OKC ZOO JOINS MASSIVE FLAMINGO CHICK RESCUE EFFORT IN SOUTH AFRICA
March 21, 2019
The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is providing $6,000 from its Round Up for Conservation emergency fund and sending staff for “boots on the ground” support after more than 1,800 lesser flamingo chicks were abandoned in South Africa. The OKC Zoo joins a global crisis response effort lead by the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA) and the Dallas Zoo in coordination with numerous other zoos and conservation organizations.
A confluence of high temperatures and low rainfall at the breeding site – one of only six wetlands where lesser flamingos breed – led to the parent flamingos abandoning their offspring before the chicks were able to survive on their own. The abandoned chicks were relocated to wildlife facilities in South Africa and will be hand-reared until they are mature enough to be re-introduced to the wild. This resource-intensive effort requires around-the-clock care and hand-feeding, monitoring weights and preparing a special diet customized for their unique nutritional needs.
With more than a decade of experience hand-rearing flamingos, OKC Zoo Assistant Birds Curator Holly Ray volunteered to lend her expertise to the rescue efforts in South Africa.
“The work I will be doing in the field is very similar to what I do with the flamingos at the OKC Zoo – feeding the chicks, monitoring their growth and generally ensuring their health and welfare – just on a much larger scale,” Ray said. “It’s vital that conservation organizations like the OKC Zoo get involved and lend support whenever major crises occur. We are using our expertise to help raise and release these birds back into the wild population.”
Ray, who also serves as vice coordinator for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Chilean flamingo species survival plan (SSP), is currently in South Africa as part of her two-week conservation journey. She will return early next month.
The lesser flamingo is the smallest species of flamingo and is found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of India. The species, currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as near threatened, faces increasing conservation threats due to its declining population and the low number of breeding sites, some of which are threatened by human activity. The OKC Zoo is home to Chilean and American flamingos.
“The Round Up for Conservation emergency fund was created specifically for situations when the clock is ticking and immediate action is required,” said Rebecca Snyder, OKC Zoo’s conservation and science curator. “The loss of almost 2,000 flamingo chicks could have dealt a tremendous blow to the species – one from which it may not have recovered. I continue to be grateful to Zoo guests who support Round Up for Conservation and to ZOOfriends members for their commitment to conservation.”
Supporting the OKC Zoo is supporting conservation of wildlife and wild places! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at ZOOfriends.org or in-person at the Zoo! To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For video and photos associated with this release, click here.